Have you ever gotten a hunch about something and it ended up being wrong? In this episode, we’ll explore 8 reasons why that might have happened and how to increase your accuracy in the future.
01:45 – 1) Low Skill Level
4:35 – 2) It’s a structured versus unstructured issue
8:50 – 3) Amount of time you have to make a decision
10:50 – 4) Consciousness bias
13:50 – 5) Attachment to the outcome
18:50 – 6) Amount of negative external or internal stimuli in the way
22:50 – 7) The timeline changed
26:50 – 8) Your intuition is purposely misleading you
66 Days to Retrain Yourself in Good Habits of Mind
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This is episode 111 – 8 Reasons Your Intuition Seems Off. Have you ever gotten a hunch about something and it ended up being wrong? That can happen, of course. So, in this episode, we’ll explore 8 reasons why that might have happened and how to increase your accuracy in the future. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast.
We often use intuition to make decisions, sometimes without even realizing it. There is just too much information coming at us from all directions, and too many decisions that we need to make from moment to moment, to think every single one through in a detailed analytical way is unrealistic. In many cases intuition is an excellent shortcut, however sometimes it can steer you in the wrong direction. Here are 8 reasons why and how to counteract them where possible.
The 1st reason is ‘low skill level’. So, let’s say I haven’t done a lot of swimming in the ocean, then my intuition on whether or not it’s safe to swim there is lower than if I’ve done it a lot. If I’m new to it, then I have no previous knowledge, experience, and skills to base that intuitive decision on. That said, a lot of book knowledge on something does not necessarily mean good intuition. For example, someone who researches jellyfish, but has never swam in a jellyfish infested ocean, is not going to be as intuitively correct as someone who has.
We have certain areas in our life where intuition is stronger than others, because we focused our intuition in that area many times over. For example, I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences. I can walk into an empty conference room and assess the set up in just a few minutes, as to how successful the event is going to be. The microphone, sound system, room layout, lighting all make a huge difference to audience engagement and successful interaction.
We subconsciously learn from environments we are in on a regular basis. This is also known as implicit learning. For example, a factory foreman spends every day scanning the environment to ensure it is safe and that the workers are productive. After many years of this, he learns to recognize the most important signals or patterns of activity that tend to lead to safety incidents. That way he can respond to conditions on the factory floor in a rapid, accurate and intuitive way. If he was fully relying on logic and analysis, it would take too long, and he would be unable to respond in a timely manner.
However, what if you’re in a situation where you have no previous background, no knowledge, no experience, and you need to make an important decision? For example, I was going to visit a town in Europe and was looking at three different possible AirBNB locations. In the past, I’ve found sometimes the photos are deceiving. One place might be better than the photos, one place might be worse. That’s when you want to use a feeling of rightness. Which of the three makes you feel more energized?
In addition, I do believe we have abilities to do something called remote viewing. There’s been movies about this, as in one that starred George Clooney called, Men who stare at goats. It was based on the nonfiction work of Jon Ronson concerning the US Army’s exploration of a form of intuition called, remote viewing. It’s where a group of trained people in the military will focus on a certain target, like where an enemy leader is hiding out. They work independently, and then come together with their findings and map the overlap. This is an actual job that many people have. I remember once going to a party chatting with different people. When I asked one woman what she did for living, she said that she used to be a remote viewer for the Army.
I’d never heard of that before, so she explained what it was in precise detail. She didn’t seem like she was lying. Apparently, her role has recently been declassified, and she could now talk about it. This was one of her first social events where she was trying it out, talking about it, to see how people reacted. Some steered clear of her, but me and a few others couldn’t get enough. We wanted to hear all about it.
At any rate, it’s a skill that everyone has naturally, but through lack of use, we forget how to access it. Now of course there’s many people training regular civilians in remote viewing. You can get the training, or you can just will yourself to remember a latent skill you already have and then just practice on your own. So, in a situation like where you’re trying to decide on accommodation when you’ve never been there, remote viewing can be useful. You literally can send a part of your consciousness to each location and check out the energy, the environment, and sense how it would feel to stay there for two weeks. Is it always accurate? No. It depends on a variety of factors. But, it’s worth at least giving it a try to save yourself possibly two weeks of being in a very bad accommodation, one that just had great photos.
The 2nd reason has to do with ‘the type of problem you’re trying to solve’. To use intuition, the problem should be unstructured. What I mean by that? It’s a problem that lacks clear decision rules or has very few objective criteria with which to make the decision. For example, if you are in human resources and you’re trying to find the best way to resolve a conflict between employees, there are so many emotional, non-structured elements involved. Or, deciding what kind of podcast episode to produce. Again, it’s a subjective response by the listener.
On the other hand, if the problem you’re trying to solve does have clear decision rules, objective criteria, good data that you can analyze, you can simply use logic and you’ll probably get an accurate answer. For example, if you are doing a social media campaign. You can just use intuition, as in what you think will appeal to your followers. Or, you can do split testing, put out three different posts that advertise the same thing, and then look at the metrics. Which one did most people click on?
Of course, most problems lie somewhere between subjective opinion and objective data. Say you want to buy a new computer. You can feed data into an online algorithm that calculates the most efficient, economical model for your needs, but the final decision will be influenced by your reaction to the look and feel of the computer. Similarly, the decision to sell your product in a new market can, on the one hand, he analyzed by the data, but the final outcome will be most affected by the new customers feelings about the product. That’s something an algorithm cannot predict. Of course, using both is the best. But if you can get your hands on data, metrics, algorithms, in certain cases it’s best to look at that first, rather than just go on intuition.
The 3rd reason is about time. Strangely enough if you have a lot of time to decide, intuition can be less accurate than detailed analysis. On the other hand, when information and time are unavailable, using intuition quickly is best. For example, assessing how to avoid a road accident, or choosing the best route across the city when you’re late for an appointment.
The 4th reason is consciousness bias. Most of us look at the world based on our past experiences. There is so much data coming at us at any given moment, your brain organizes your reality in terms of what you are familiar with. Otherwise you’d be on data overload all the time, and your brain would shut off. For example, two people can walk into a restaurant, and decide on whether or not to eat there based on entirely different criteria. One will like the place because of the decor and the aromas from the kitchen. Another won’t notice those things, and will dislike it because of the music, and the fact there is a large table of people who are very noisy.
Also, in some situations, you’ve had a previous experience that was emotionally charged around the particular decision, problem or circumstance you are facing. Like, if you’re a coach, and you are assessing whether a certain person is a good fit to work with, maybe they have a certain profession that you’ve always been successful helping people with, or they look a certain way, and people who are like that, you’ve been successful with, so then you might say yes, without really using deeper analysis, or deeper intuition. Similarly, maybe they’re in a profession that you haven’t been successful in helping people with, or there’s something about the way they look, they remind you of your father with whom you had a challenging relationship, and so you say no, when actually it might be a coaching relationship made in heaven.
Case in point. I was teaching a client how to choose their best type of coaching clients. She was used to coaching midlife women on career change. A man came to her who had been retired for several years, and decided he wanted to start a business. Her first instinct was to say no to coaching him, because she never dealt with someone like that. But together we analyzed it and used intuition. She got as much information as possible during in introductory meeting about who he was, his goals, how he liked to be coached. All that seems good. But I asked her to imagine herself coaching him, over six months, getting him from no business to up and running with this business he wanted to start in his 70s. And she really saw herself making a big difference for him. She felt energized at the thought of working with him. That made her change her mind and agreed to work with him. Indeed, he was one of the best clients ever had. After that, she started working a lot more with men of different ages, instead of just midlife women.
I’ve also seen this in the world of angel investing where most of the investors are male. They will look at a business plan, the market, outside data, but will often make a decision they say is based on intuition about the entrepreneur. But if you look at the data, male entrepreneurs get $34 for every $1 that women entrepreneurs get. Yet, the data will often show that many women entrepreneurs give a better return on investment to their angel investors.
How to distinguish bias from intuition, is to look for evidence that your intuitive hit might be wrong. If you can’t find that evidence, it might be right. Ask yourself where the intuition might be coming from. Does this look like something I’ve seen before? If so that’s a warning sign that it’s consciousness bias and not intuition. So another way to think about it is, what’s a counterintuitive choice here?
In fact, the word counterintuitive is actually a misnomer. The word means contrary to the common sense developed by strategies of the past. In other words, its actually contrary to what we expect, if something seems counterintuitive, there’s actually consciousness bias in the way. For example, Nutpods creates plant-based creamers for coffee, like Coconut and almond milk. It was started by a woman who was on vacation, pregnant and frustrated with her nondairy creamer options at a Lake Tahoe diner. She couldn’t get regular funding, so got going with a kick starter campaign all while she was pregnant. It was one of those counterintuitive initiatives at the time, that didn’t seem to investors like it would do very well. But Nutpods are now in most major stores.
A 5th reason is about how attached you are to the outcome. If you are heavily, emotionally attached to a certain outcome, it serves to rely more, or at least 50% on data. For example, perhaps you are using your intuition to make decisions around financial investments. You are heavily attached to a certain kind of investment, because it can give big returns in a small amount of time. And you need money soon. That’s when you want to do your due diligence as much as possible, especially if it’s a high risk kind of investment. You’d need to get unattached. In mindfulness meditation, they are often teaching people how to detach from things they have strong desires for, or stronger aversions to. That alone is a huge pathway towards inner peace, neutrality and the ability to access accurate intuition.
How might that look? Say, you have three options for investing. First, you decide that you are okay if you lose it all. It’s not money you need for rent or mortgage. Yes, it would be a bummer if you lost it, but it’s not going to mean you don’t have a roof over your head. So, if our safety, security, control, approval from others is at risk – that’s when there’s more likely to be lots of attachment to the outcome.
Then, you do as much data analysis as you can. Then, you go down three different timelines. You literally remote view the future in three different directions. The first one is investment number one, the second is investment number two, the third is investment number three. Choose a period of time like six months from now. And you jump to the end of that timeline and look back, and just get a sense of how you feel. Feelings are the key here. Do you feel energized? Is there a sense of rightness to having made that decision? Or, do you feel de-energized, deflated, regretful, or neutral, like the investment didn’t really do anything. So, this is based on that theory they highlight in a movie called ‘Sliding Doors’ with Gwyneth Paltrow. This was a 1998 romantic comedy drama that alternates between two storylines, showing the path the central character’s life could have taken depending on whether or not she catches a subway. In one instance she stops to pick something up and misses a subway train because the doors slide close before she can get there. And in the other instance she doesn’t stop pick something up and makes it onto the train. In other words, the idea is that there are parallel realities in which you made other decisions in your life, that are happening at the same time as the reality you are living right now. Whether you believe that notion or not, is up to you. But, if going down a certain timeline with an investment makes you feel energized, and you don’t have any other data to go on, give it a try and see what happens.
A 6th reason is about external or internal stimuli. Lack of proper lighting, inability to hear properly, visuals, what you’ve ingested, hormones, energy levels, time of day, even temperature can affect your intuition in a negative way. For example the chemical makeup in your brain and your mood will differ at different times of day. Like melatonin levels differ not only throughout the day, but based on your gender. It’s best not to make a big decision between 8 PM and 8 AM when you might be more fatigued, sluggish, or more inclined to be irritable. Just think about it, fatigue is responsible for 20 to 30% of fatal road accidents. Then there are hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, norepinephrine, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone that can all affect your intuition. Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in not so good ways.
Think of a gambling casino. The more intuitive you are, the more likely you are to win. That’s why often many gambling casinos make it harder for you to be tapped into your intuition. They are pushing alcohol, the lighting is more dim, there’s lots of noise, smoke, people moving around in different places, it’s hard to find your way out of a gambling casino, they are like a maze. All of that leads to disconnection and confusion, which would lead to a poorly made gambling decision, and the house makes more money.
The 7th reason is that the timeline changed. What do I mean by that? Say you’re using your intuition to predict what’s going to be happening with world events, things that affect your ability to do business or to travel. Your intuition tells you that the lockdown will go away by a certain date, and lo and behold, it gets extended. That may not be because your intuition is off track, but rather that things in the world, beyond your control have since changed. Your first prediction was accurate, but now, if you check again, a new timeline is in effect. In cases that involve the whole world, lots of other people, the weather, large scale happenings…what’s true one day may change the next…because there are so many factors at play. That’s why it’s good to keep checking in and have a Plan B in effect.
And finally the 8th reason is that your intuition is purposely misleading you. What? My intuition wants to purposely mislead me? Sometimes you need to make the wrong decision, to learn something important. Of course, we want to be able to avoid mistakes, failures, setbacks, accidents, humiliation, but sometimes at a “soul growth” level that’s exactly what you need. I know that is not always nice to hear, but if you look back on challenges you went through, where you are regretting the decision you made…How might your life look different if everything had gone smoothly? Maybe you would lack a lot of skills, resilience, wisdom, strength of character because you went through that challenge. If you never had any challenges, setbacks to overcome, you don’t grow.
For example, say you chose to get into a relationship with a person and it was very challenging. Would your life had been better if you’d stayed single, or been with someone else? Maybe, maybe not. You just don’t know. Maybe all those challenges made you a better communicator, maybe it taught you to be more discerning, maybe it taught you to have better boundaries, maybe it taught you to be more tolerant of people’s differences. If you always had great relationships, where there were no challenges, how would you ever learn any of those things?
So, to summarize, these are 8 reasons your intuition might steer you off track – 1) Low Skill Level regarding the situation 2) the type of problem you’re trying to solve’ – structured ones are harder to be accurate with 3) has to do with how much time you have to make a decision 4) has to do with how much consciousness bias is in your way 5) how attached you are to the outcome 6) how much external or internal stimuli are affecting your ability to tap into intuition 7) The timeline changed and 8) your intuition is purposely misleading you.
So, it’s not always bad when your intuition steers you off track. But if you are meant to go in a positive, constructive direction, just using logic and data is putting you at a disadvantage. We all have access to this amazing superpower called intuition if we learn how to use it. Just know when your intuition might take you off track, and then you can counteract that if possible.
So, I hope that was helpful. For more ways of building intuitive habits of mind like this do check out our audio course: MindStory Blueprints: 66 Days to Retrain Yourself in Good Habits of Mind. These are short audios to use daily to retrain your brain so you remember how to access all those latent superpowers. Just go to the link in the shownotes.
Or, go to our website MindStoryAcademy.com, and scroll down to the orange square and click on that. It’s produced by me Carla Rieger and my partner Dave O’Connor.
Okay, that’s it for today. In the meantime, please hit subscribe, please like this episode and do share if so others can find it. Until next time, thanks for listening.